Delta’s coal port operators have spent $8.5 million on a new coal dust mitigation system that they hope will curtail complaints about the black powder spilling off trains and coal piles at the facility.
David Crook, manager of engineering and environmental services for Westshore Terminals, spoke to Delta council on Monday, July 29, about the efforts the company has made in the past several months.
Those efforts include two mobile air monitoring units which are able to read particulate matter in the wind and can be moved around on trailers.
“Anecdotally, we hear a lot of complaints about the fact that there is dust in the community that is coal,” he said, adding that in the 17 investigations Westshore has conducted over the last 10 years, 13 resulted in finding no coal dust.
Crook said a third party does the laboratory analysis for independent confirmation. The black material that collects on objects are often found to be other airborne particulate matter, such as diesel, soil, or fungus.
“We don’t like being blamed for the stuff that is not ours,” he said. “We’ll take responsibility with the stuff that is.”
The company has also installed 30 kilometres of underground piping for a new water spray system that feeds 94 low level sprays that can be used in normal wind conditions. For higher winds there are 12 new 40-metre water towers that keep the coal piles wet.
Although Westshore uses water from a Metro Vancouver supply, up to $5.5 million has been spent on a water recycling system to reuse the water after the coal has been removed. Rain water that falls during winter is also collected and reused.
The company also responded to concerns about coal trains spilling dust on the journey to the terminal. A video posted to YouTube in May shows coal dust spewing from a Canadian Pacific train travelling through Delta.
Crook said a new web cam installed at the 80th Street overpass allows the company to monitor whether trains are properly spraying the coal well enough to keep it from dusting off.
“The vast majority of the trains have been well-behaved and have not been dusting, although we have seen a couple of dusting trains which we have referred back to the [coal] mines and the railways for further action,” he said.
Denis Horgan, vice president of Westshore, said there was a train a few months ago that was dusting and they radioed to have it stopped in Kamloops and would not accept it until the coal had been properly sprayed.
“It turned out their spraying system wasn’t working properly at the mine site, so they fixed that,” he said.
Delta’s chief administrative officer George Harvie said that staff conducted dust monitoring at five separate sites in Delta over a 30-day period. The analysis will now be done by a certified laboratory and the results brought back to council in September.
For those who have more questions about coal dust suppression, Westshore Terminals is providing public tours during the summer. They will also have a booth at the Tsawwassen Sun Festival and the Point Roberts Art Festival.
Air quality in Tsawwassen is monitored by Metro Vancouver at Pebble Hill Park and the results are posted live at www.airmap.ca. Alternately, go to www.bcairquality.ca/readings/ and click on the southwest link for the inset Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.